Dubstep Mixing Guide – Part 1

1. Intro

Here I will show you how to mix a dubstep track in 12 easy steps.Obviously mixing is subjective, but following this guide will keep you your track on the right track. The thing about using samples and synth’s is that no matter how well prepared the sound is, even if you sample it from a commercial dubstep record, as soon as you add it in with a new mix it will lose most of its good features. This is because fat sounds, in fat tracks sound that way they do due to the relationship they have with each other, and they way they were processed (compressed etc) with each other – Not necessarily because they are individually amazing sounds. This is why learning how to mix dubstep correctly will make the difference between getting to the top, and staying at home in your bedroom. The best tip I can give is, listen, then listen some more. The devil is in the detail.

Learning these tips should take around 5-10 mix downs to grasp the basics, I can usually mix down a track to release quality in 3 hours after doing about 100 mix downs. These tips are very effective.

2. Dubstep Frequency Range

These frequency ranges should help you add or subtract the correct EQ, beware, adding a certain element to all sounds will give poor results eg, bite. You can use the frequency map included to great effect.

Dubstep Sub bass: 20hz – 100hz. Prominent frequency 30hz.

Top bass: 44khz – 20khz – Prominent frequency 220hz

808 Kick Drum: 20 Hz – 4khz – Prominent frequency 60hz.

909 Kick Drum: 40hz – 7.5khz – Prominent frequency 110hz

D&B Kick Drum: 120hz – 7.5khz – Prominent frequency 150hz

Crash: 500hz – 20khz Prominent Frequency 2khz

Congas: 120hz – 7.5khz – Prominent frequency 500hz

Claps: 2khz – 16khz – Prominent frequency 6khz

Pads: 110hz – 20khz – Prominent frequency 800hz

Rising FX: 20hz – 20khz – Prominent frequency 1.7khz

Stabs: 500hz – 10khz – Prominent Frequency 3.5khz

You can use the above to give each part to your dubstep mix its own space. This enables the listener to hear each sound clearly with out it sounding muddled. Use careful EQ to create a space for each part, you can either do this by cutting the frequencies of other instruments around the sound you are trying to give space to (the most effective way) or boosting the frequencies of the part in question. Using frequency cuts is best because the human brain will deem a sound more natural sounding by using a cut. This is because of what happens in the real world, sounds are absorbed by different materials (like wood, and concrete) resulting in certain frequencies being removed. Therefore when boosting EQ the brain will not be used to it as it, were as a cut will sound perfectly expectable. A good trick if you don’t want to boost a frequency, is to cut all the other frequencies apart from the one you want to boost and then turn the whole volume up. As a rule a 1DB boost is equivalent to a 3DB cut.

Here are the frequency ranges and there associated attributes, boosting / cutting EQ to a part in these frequencies will enhance or diminish the attribute:

Weight: – 20hz – 150hz

Warmth: 220hz – 380hz

Muddiness: 250hz – 400hz

Knock / Punch: 600hz – 1khz

Definition / Bite: 1khz – 2khz

Clarity: 4khz – 7.5khz

Air and Sparkle: 7.5khz – 20khz

If the above is not familiar with you take a few days to learn this by putting it in to practice. Get a dubstep mix you have done, but are not happy with and try and get every thing separated so each part can be heard clearly.

Power Tip: Don’t go mad with EQ, use volume first, then if you have to use a EQ, cut of around 2/6db, if finally you need to boost never go over 6db of boost until you have done at least 100 mix downs and are very confident with EQ.

The main reason people go wrong is they see EQ as a ‘sonic sculpting’ tool. Which it can be, but in small amounts. Try and avoid this to start with. If you ever get a chance to see a professional engineers desk after a mix down, you will see there are lots of subtle cuts, and a few well placed boosts. Not drastic, huge boosts everywhere, like most people do when they start out, including me and probably everyone, ever! Always remember that if you cut one end of the frequency spectrum comparatively you are boosting the other end.

Power Tip: As a rule use gentle wide boosts to bring subtle attention to a part, and narrow surgical cuts to remove problem frequencies.